By John Oyuke
It is now possible to directly fly to Somaliland from Nairobi.
The two-hour flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by East African Safari Air Express cuts down the 12-hour journey of connecting flights to Hargeisa, the capital of the semi-autonomous region in northern Somalia.
The twice a week flight is bound to spur regional integration and trade.
Speaking while receiving the chartered flight at Hargeisa Egal International Airport at the weekend, Mr Hussein Ali Duale, minister of Finance of Somaliland, said the development will open the country to trade from the East African Community.
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"We used to fly for 12 hours from Nairobi to Dubai via Djibouti, and Ethiopia. Sometimes we were taking up to two days. But with the launch of the direct flight, we will be travelling for only two hours," he said.
East African Safari Air Express Commercial director George Kivindyo said the airline is the first Kenyan carrier to fly directly from JKIA to the former British Somaliland protectorate.
"We are going to save them more than eight hours they used to travel before we made the bold move," he said.
He said the airline would be make stop overs at Wajir International Airport on return from Somaliland as directed by the Kenyan government requiring all airlines from Somali to make a stop over at Wajir for security reasons.
Somaliland Director of Aviation, Said Mahdi Ileye said the launch followed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) signed between the two countries last year.
Somaliland has considerable economic potential but violence in Somalia has made it lag behind.